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The Archive and the Database as Structural Principles in Experimental Life-Writing
Wojciech Z. Drag, University of Wrocław, Poland,
October 20, 2021
5:30 pm, Thornton Hall, room 103
Free and open to the public.
This talk aims to survey a variety of instances of contemporary experimental life-writing (a critical category introduced by Irene Kacandes in 2012) and to examine their dependence on the figures of the archive and the database. Following a brief outline of the philosophical, socioeconomic, and technological causes of that phenomenon, I shall propose a classification of the archival subgenres that have been particularly prominent in Anglophone auto/biographical literature since the 1970s. Based on their adopted system of arranging data, I will differentiate between the material archive (such as Anne Carson's Nox), the catalogue of memories (Joe Brainard's I Remember), the encyclopedia, glossary, or index (Joan Wickersham's The Suicide Index), the bibliography (Rick Moody's "Primary Sources"), the subtotal or balance sheet (Gregory Burnham's "Subtotals"), the inventory (Tan Lin's BIB., Rev. Ed.), the notebook (Evan Lavender-Smith's From Old Notebooks), the record or transcript (Kenneth Goldsmith's Soliloquy), and the digital database (David Clark's 88 Constellations for Wittgenstein).
Dr. Wojciech Drąg is an assistant professor at the University of Wrocław in Poland. He is the author of Collage in Twenty-First-Century Literature in English: Art of Crisis (2020), Revisiting Loss: Memory, Trauma and Nostalgia in the Novels of Kazuo Ishiguro (2014), co-editor of three critical volumes and the author of over thirty other academic publications. He is currently at Dartmouth on a three-month research fellowship financed by the Polish National Agency for Academic Exchange.